Chicken Stew

This chicken stew recipe is two recipes in one: you begin by making a basic chicken soup, then thicken it with flour and add a touch of cream and you have a comforting stew. If you want to cook it just as a soup, follow the instructions but eliminate the flour and cream. Feel free to enhance your soup with tomatoes or other vegetables of choice, beans, additional herbs, pasta or rice. When making stew, I keep it fairly simple, but feel free to add potatoes and peas or top with biscuits or dumplings. It tastes even better the day after you make it.

Chicken Stew
1 (4-5) lb. whole chicken
enough water to cover the chicken
3 Knorr brand chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium onion, peeked and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 leek, rough chopped and rinsed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 ribs celery with leaves, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 bunch fresh parsley with stem
12 black peppercorns
2 fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2-3/4 cup flour (mixed with stock or water)
1/4 cup heavy cream or more to taste

Place chicken in an 8-quart stockpot. Cover the chicken with enough cold water to come up to about 3-inches from the rim of the pot. This will completely submerge the chicken. Add bouillon cubes, salt, onion, garlic, leeks, carrots, and celery. Bring to the boil, uncovered, on medium high heat. Once it boils, skim any foam from the top. Add parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme. Lower heat slightly and partially cover with a lid. Cook for 1-1/2 hours or until the chicken is beginning to fall from the bone. Strain the soup, placing the stock in a clean pot. You should have 7-8 cups of stock. Let the chicken cool for a few minutes, then remove the chicken from the bone, discard the skin, and return shredded chicken to the stock. Slice the strained carrots and celery and add to the stock. Discard the remaining strained vegetables and herbs. Heat the chicken mixture. Combine 3/4 cup flour with enough stock or water to make a very thin paste. Add flour mixture to the stock, stirring constantly until it comes to the boil and stew thickens. Stir in cream. You can add more if you want a creamier soup. Taste and add salt and pepper and more dried thyme if necessary. Serves 6.

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